Submission on Tax deductible status of environmental organisations

August 4, 2017 at 6:41 pm Leave a comment

The Australia Institute commissioned polling (Sep 2016) on tax deductible status on environmental campaigning and advocacy

The charitable status of Environmental organisations is again under threat by a Treasury discussion paper. We think this is another attack to undermine the funding of climate campaigns, orchestrated in particular by the mining lobby and Minerals Council of Australia.

Organisations such as the Australian Conservation Foundation, Environment Victoria and Friends of the Earth, and even the Climate Council, have tax deductible status which enables them to more easily fundraise for their environmental, climate and social justice campaigns. These campaigns involve important research, education and community advocacy.

You may have noticed that these, and other environmental NGOs have had a particular recent focus on climate change. We think these changes are being suggested at the behest of the Minerals Council of Australia as part of an ideological agenda to undermine the fund raising basis and to sanction environmental NGOs due to the campaign for climate justice and push for rapid emissions reduction, end to fossil fuel subsidies, call for no new coal mines and phaseout of fossil fuel exploitation.

Although we are not directly affected as we are an unincorporated association, we sometimes rely on interactions with 350 Australia, Australian Conservation Foundation, Environment Victoria and Friends of the Earth to help in our advocacy and grassroots and community education work. The tax deductible status of these organisations ensures they can fundraise, and indirectly supports our local community campaigning. Read more on this campaign by Friends of the Earth, or read the Climate Council submission.

The Treasury discussion paper is floating a host of proposals that include several targeting specifically environment NGOs and their work:

  • placing additional reporting requirements on reporting advocacy activities to add extra administrative burden
  • Five year general sunset clause to make organisations go through the complex registration process
  • Requiring environmental organisations to commit no less than 25 per cent of their annual expenditure from their public fund to environmental remediation, and perhaps up to 50 per cent
  • Sanctions for environmental organisations involved in ‘illegal’ activity such as organising protests

Mining companies are able to claim fees and membership of industry associations such as the Minerals Council of Australia and Queensland Resources Council, as fully business tax deductible expenses. This money is used in mining advocacy for projects often of a destructive environmental nature. These funds are also used in the campaign to stop the tax deductible status of environmental organisations.

Read the Australia Institute September 2015 report on Public Support for Environmental Advocacy (PDF) which includes a commissioned poll on Australian attitudes to environmental advocacy and tax deductible status.

To find out what people actually think, The Australia Institute conducted national polling. The results found:

* Most people support tax-deductible donations to a wide range of advocacy activities, including:

  • advocacy to change policy (68 per cent),
  • campaigning (68 per cent) and
  • legal cases to uphold existing law (55 per cent).

* Only 27 per cent said environment groups had too much influence in public debates, while 34 per cent said they had not enough influence.
* By contrast, most people said big business (62 per cent) and mining companies (58 per cent) had too much influence.

While 7 in 10 Australians supports tax-deductible donations to environmental advocacy, the government wants to ban them. While 6 in 10 Australians are concerned big business and mining companies have too much influence, the Coalition enthusiastically promotes them and even encourages them become “political activists” and “fight” government policy.

What’s more, big business and mining companies wield their influence through lobbying activities that are themselves tax deductible. In the last 5 years, the mining industry has spent $340 million on lobby groups, and more on registered lobbyists and in-house lobbyists.

Read our full submission to the Treasury Department

Background reading

These articles are in chronological order, with most recent towards the top. Many relate to the House of Reps Inquiry of 2015 and 2016.

Joan Staples, July 2017

Lenore Taylor, The Guardian, July 2017

Rachel McFadden, ProBono News, July 2017

With environmental charities in the firing line over DGR status the sector must stay strong and not become divided, writes David Crosbie, CEO of the Community Council for Australia (CCA). 2017

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Entry filed under: news, Policy. Tags: , .

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